East Africa

Business as usual as Kenyans ignore vaccination order


Summary

  • On Wednesday, the ministry said to enter social joints, organised events, parastatal, and government offices, people will have to show vaccination certificate as the government rushes to meet its target of vaccinating 10 million before 2022.
  • Yesterday, while a few business premises attempted to effect the order in Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu, Nakuru and other major towns, the majority ignored it, with some even protesting the directive.
  • In Nairobi’s central business district (CBD), Artcaffe on Kimathi Street was among the few joints that checked customers’ vaccination status.
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By Elizabeth Merab

By SIAGO CECE

By BRIAN WACHIRA

By REGINAH KINOGU

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By AMINA WAKO


Confusion has arisen over how the Health ministry’s directive for people to prove their Covid-19 vaccination before accessing public areas should be implemented.  

On Wednesday, the ministry said to enter social joints, organised events, parastatal, and government offices, people will have to show vaccination certificate as the government rushes to meet its target of vaccinating 10 million before 2022.

The same rule would apply in hotels, pubs, bars, lounges, casinos, game parks, supermarkets, and markets.

Yesterday, while a few business premises attempted to effect the order in Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu, Nakuru and other major towns, the majority ignored it, with some even protesting the directive.

The Nation spot-checks revealed blatant disregard for the directive by public service vehicles, with the majority ignoring the other safety protocols— masking, social distancing and sanitising.

Many who did not wish to go on record said it was impossible to comply with the order due to lack of capacity and technical know-how.

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In rural areas with little penetration to smartphones, interviewed business owners said their clients were finding it hard to access the Covid-19 certificates.

In Nairobi’s central business district (CBD), Artcaffe on Kimathi Street was among the few joints that checked customers’ vaccination status.

“They had locked me out but when they checked and saw I had received the first jab, they allowed me in,” a customer at Artcaffe told Nation.

In some places, the washing of hands, sanitising, and temperature check-in are mandatory. However, in others, you just walk in and walk out.

In Mombasa, some hotels protested the directive, questioning its timing.

Leopards Beach Resort General Manager Kioko Musyoki said the directive will be disruptive to a sector that was crippled by the Covid-19 pandemic.

He termed the move as unfair since “hotels have been adhering to Covid-19 protocols” since they reopened.

“I was expecting 35 guests from Ukraine on December 27. But only 18 are going to come because the agent said tourists got scared after the directive that anyone coming into the country’s hotels and resorts must be vaccinated,” Mr Musyoki told Nation.

Kwale Bar Owners Chairperson Richard Onsongo said implementation of the directive is abrupt, its timing is wrong, and therefore will not be adhered to.

“You cannot expect us to turn back a client who is going to give us business just because they have not been vaccinated. Our businesses are private and anyone, whether vaccinated or not, is allowed here,” he said.

“But for all the bars here, we will keep operating with every client because we do not want to create an unfair business.”

Through the Public Health Act Chapter 242 (PHA), Kenyan officials enjoy the broad legal authority to impose various forms of restrictions during public health crises.

The primary legislation applicable to matters of public health crises, authorises public health authorities, particularly the Minister of Health, to take various actions during public health emergencies.

These include declaring an infectious disease a “notifiable infectious disease” or a “formidable epidemic, endemic or infectious disease,” and taking the necessary prevention and suppression measures to fight the disease.

Specific powers accorded to health authorities for the purpose of prevention and suppression of infectious disease include search, seizure, and detention powers; the power to designate any place as a quarantine area, including ships and aircraft; and the power to restrict or ban immigration into the country.

According to Kelvin Mwangi, a medico-legal expert, the ministry ought to have done public participation and gazetted the new directives before effecting it.

However, the situation at hand, he added, also presents a catch-22 dilemma.

“Legally, on one hand, the government has an obligation to protect its citizens against a health crisis. But on the other, people are not being coerced to take up the vaccine,” Mr Mwangi said.

“These, therefore, become competing rights which only the court can resolve because it doesn’t have a clear play.”

He however added that the normal procedure of involving stakeholders should have happened because “you cannot invoke the Act without public participation, as the Constitution protects the rights of the citizens.”

Health officials in Mombasa said the order was necessary to save lives and livelihoods, especially after Kenya detected the Omicron variant, which is said to spread rapidly.

Mombasa Public Health Chief Officer Pauline Oginga said hoteliers should protect and safeguard their livelihoods.

“They want to survive these harsh times, so we have come up with activities to make sure the hotel industry stays afloat during this period,” she said.

Ms Oginga called on religious institutions, schools, and opinion leaders to sensitize the community on the need to take up the Covid-19 jab.

Association of Hotel Keepers and Caterers Executive Director Dr Sam Ikwaye said different hotels have adopted rigorous security and health checks to ensure they support government policy on Covid-19.

“We don’t want any lockdown or tough containment measures that will further affect businesses. One hundred percent of service staff are vaccinated in most hotels. We have also increased service stations to reduce congestion,” Dr Ikwaye explained.

Diani’s Baobab Beach Resort General Manager Sylvester Mbandi said they complied with Covid-19 protocols since last year.

“It has worked for us so far and that’s how we will continue to operate,” Mr Mbandi said.

In Nyeri, locals hit out at the government over the directive saying they should not be coerced to get the vaccine.

“Vaccination is important but the government cannot force people to get it. Instead, they should increase sensitisation and make the vaccine available in the villages,” Ms Wanjiru Mugo told the Nation.

At the matatu termini, locals continued travelling without the need to produce a vaccination certificate.

In fact, some saccos did not check for masks on their customers.

This came as more people caught the virus. Yesterday, 3,746 tested positive for the disease, from a sample size of 11,537 tested in the last 24 hours.

This brings to total confirmed positive cases to 274,645. The positivity rate is now at 32.5 per cent, the highest since the virus landed on Kenyan shores.

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